Who in the South African wine industry doesn’t know the name Bruce Jack? You may know him as the winemaker who shot Flagstone to fame, or the man behind The Drift Estate in the Overberg. Most recently, and for the past 10 years, Bruce was the Group Head Winemaker for Accolade Wines—where he was able to use his talents making wine all over the world. Bruce now finds himself at the start of something new. And that is? Bruce Jack Wines. We sit down with Bruce to find out more.
How did you first get into wine? I started packing shelves in a local bottle store when I was 16, so I’ve been around the block a few times. Most of that time I’ve been a winemaker though. I’ve been in the industry now for over 30 years.
That’s a long time… I guess I’ve seen a lot in this industry and certainly made most of the mistakes there are to make. But I’ve also learnt a lot through these experiences, including that wine made truthfully can add joy to life. That’s easy to say, but not so easy to achieve.
And the idea behind Bruce Jack Wines? The ‘lifestyle’ end of the winemaking spectrum fascinates me just as much as the very top, super-premium end. Besides the challenge of crafting wines, I am intrigued by the concept of value. Value is an unambiguous concept. So amongst all the different factors associated with wine, I value value the most. At the ‘lifestyle’ level, where the price allows you to enjoy everyday wine, that’s where I’m aiming. That’s how one builds long-term, loyal followers. And that’s what Bruce Jack Wines are going to be about.
Why did you feel now was the right time to bring out a new range? The timing was right. I resigned as group head winemaker from Accolade Wines in January this year, after 10 great years with the company. After being exposed to many styles and ways of doing things I thought it was time to launch my own brand and wine business again.
Value aside, what is going to make your wines stand apart? Three things differentiate the Bruce Jack Wines from most other offerings out there. Firstly, the brand is globally sourced, with wines coming from vineyards in South Africa, Chile, Australia and Spain. Secondly, the wine is made in partnership with uniWines in the Breedekloof Valley (an amalgamation of four massive wineries) and, lastly, we blend in between 5 per cent and 20 per cent of wines from other cool-climate areas. In so doing we can craft wines that not only sell at a really good price, but have both character and complexity.
Your label designs have been some of the most beautiful we’ve seen—can you tell us more about the Bruce Jack label in particular? The Bruce Jack label was designed by the brilliant Rohan Etsebeth of Fanakolo Design. We work with many designers, including Andrew van der Merwe and Brian Plimsol. My wife oversees all the designs. She is a designer and artist herself, so we have an incredibly talented team.
What makes you pay attention to label design? We think it’s important to put a lot of work and thought into the designs, as we want what’s on the outside to reflect the time and dedication that goes into the inside. Wine is the full package from that perspective. It needs to be thought through with meticulous detail, from the vineyards all the way to the label. Get any stage wrong and the whole proposition can fall apart.
What do you want people to experience when drinking Bruce Jack? Firstly, that they have stumbled across an amazing value-for-money experience. Secondly, I want the wine to add joy to a meal, a conversation, even a dream. Wine made truthfully, with intent and with passion, carries with it a positive energy. When you consume the wine and you are open to this energy, you will be buoyed by it. That would make me very proud.
What plans do you have to expand the range? From South Africa we will launch with a Pinotage, Shiraz and a Sauvignon Blanc. Then we’d like to add a Chenin Blanc and Cinsault in time. That should keep us busy. Especially making each wine the best it can be in its price category.
How and where is the best way to enjoy a glass of Bruce Jack? Probably on top of Lion’s Head, watching the sun go down over the Atlantic Ocean. Around a braai would come a close second. Or on a game drive in the Kruger.
Any food pairings you’ve tried and loved? Each wine goes well with specific foods, but all go well in a Jacuzzi.
What would you say is the best part of making wine? Without a doubt the blending. Winemaking is essentially a craft, but during the magic of blending it can approach art.
And the most difficult? I can’t really think of a difficult part. Except maybe negotiating a good price from the Wine-of-the-Month Club. No, that’s not true…
Photography by Daniela Zondagh